This morning, a former co-worker in her early 20's wrote me to say that she "hasn't really had the chance" to attend classical music concerts since leaving college, where she was a music major. This, of course, is a widely held perception: that classical music concerts are generally inaccessible to anyone under 30, or who makes less than six-figures. Part of the responsibility for this situation lies with performing arts organizations, which spend a lot more time catering to their moneyed patrons than cultivating future customers.
But, to give credit where credit's due, there are a number of programs out there for folks under 35 which, if not exactly making tickets cheap, at least puts them in the ballpark of affordability. (Note: a number of these discounts are only available to students, but as long as your college id doesn't look like it's been through the laundry, you should be able to get by.)
This season, the world's greatest opera house introduced the Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Tickets program, offering 200 orchestra-level seats for $20. These tickets usually go for $100, so this is a truly great deal. They're available for most performances Monday through Thursday at the box office beginning two hours before curtain on the day of the performance. Two tickets per person limit, no age limit.
If you're 29 or under, Student Discount Tickets are available at 10 am on the day of the performance at the box office. Prices are $25 for weekday and $35 for Friday and Saturday performances, and they'll give you the best seats available. A valid student ID and proof of age must be presented at the time of purchase. Limit two tickets per performance.
Finally, you can always get same-day standing room tickets at the back of the orchestra ($20) or in the Family Circle ($15). In 15 years of attending the Met, I have never been shut out of standing room (though I came close in 2000 for Gotterdammerung, where the line snaked all the way to the basement garage.) Don't forget to wear comfortable shoes!
NY City Opera
City Opera's Student Half Price Ticket Program offers their best available seats to students at half price one week prior to the performance. You can purchase these tickets online or call the box office at (212) 721-6500. (Note: these tickets are only available on seats priced $66 and up.)
Student Rush Tickets offer a limited number of $16 tickets, starting at 4pm before that evening's performance, or at 10:00am on Saturdays and 11:30am on Sundays for that day's matinee performance, at the box office. Students can check availability in advance by calling (212) 870-5630.
Finally, this season, City Opera introduced the Big Deal membership program, which allows patrons from 21-39 to purchase $30 tickets (best seats available) up to two weeks in advance. The only catch is that they require you to make a separate tax-deductible donation: anywhere from $50 to $200. Depending on the level of membership (named Basso, Mezzo, or Maestro), patrons get additional perks, including free cocktail parties and a free subscription to Time Out New York. Go here to find out more.
You can get to Carnegie Hall for $10, provided you have a "valid" student ID. And these aren't somewhere up in the side balcony: these are the best seats left available in the house. Better still: if you sign up for their student rush newsletter, they'll let you know what shows are available up to a week in advance, so no last minute crush at the box office.
In addition, Carnegie has introduced a new Student Subscription Series, offering three 3-concert packages for $45. Valid ID is required, two ticket max per person.
Finally, there's the new Club 57 and 7th program, which offers 3-concert packages for $99 to anyone 35 or under as of 10/1/06. There are a bunch of fun free extras with this program, like free cocktail parties and occasional free tickets: I got two orchestra-level tickets to the Chicago Symphony's Miraculous Mandarin Discovery Concert back in December, and two more for the New World Symphony's Discovery Concert at the end of this month. Two ticket max per person.
New York Philharmonic
Students can purchase $12 online rush tickets up to 10 days in advance by clicking here. Two tickets for each valid ID presented. Rush tickets are also available at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office on the day of the performance only.
Similar to Carnegie's 57th and 7th program, the Philharmonic's MyPhil gives patrons 35 and under the opportunity to purchase 3 or more concerts (best available seats)for $29 a ticket. Some nice free perks, too, including a one-year Time Out New York subscription. (BTW - If you already got one through City Opera, they'll just start it the following year.) Points off for the iTunes ripoff site, but still a pretty cheap way to see one of the world's great orchestras.
Peoples' Symphony Concerts
If you haven't heard of the People's Symphony, it's time to get with the program. For over 107 years, the People's Symphony has brought "the best music to students and workers at minimum prices." And they do mean minimum: for the current season, a six concert subscription costs a total of $28. And these are not backbench musicians: this year's lineup includes the Beaux Arts Trio, the Juilliard and Guarneri String Quartets, and pianists Richard Goode and Leon Fleisher, among others. How do they do it? Beats the hell out of me. Just make sure you get there early.
Of course, there are countless other venues where you can see great music in this town for a song. So, put down the iPod and get out there and hear some live music: you'll still be out before most bars get hoppin'.